Wellness Programs Don't Work, So What Will Drive Down the Cost of Heath Care?

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 04: Clients workout at the NuYu Weight Loss Retreat on February 4, 2010 in the Hawkesbury Valley near Sydney, Australia. Nuyu is a live-in style retreat offering programs that run for up to 6 weeks addressing all aspects of healthy living including exercise, meal planning, emotional well being and boast a 80% success rate for long term weight management.The latest statistics from the Dietitians Association of Australia state that 62% - more than 13 million Australian adults - and 25% of Australian children are overweight or obese. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

In an era where employers expect employees to further blur the line between work and home, when they are asking employees to be constantly reachable by cell phone or email, when they are cutting deeper into a worker's free time therefore making it more difficult for workers to cook healthful meals or exercise, employers are also begging employees to undo the deleterious side effects of a more sedentary office life by creating wellness programs that give benefits to employees that remain under a certain BMI, quit smoking, or exercise more.

Except they don't work.

At least not in the way they are currently being implemented, which is often a hands-off, low-time-commitment approach on the part of the management team. You know, those people at the top who need employees to stop cutting into the company profits by driving up insurance costs with their health problems.

Yet a study explored in the Wall Street Journal shows that employers who put in a small amount of effort usually see a small amount of returns. In order to see results, employers need to make their goals clear, offer adequate support and give incentives.

Still, wellness programs continue to be popular because they are good in theory.

Healthy Discoveries states that,

The increased costs of insurance premiums, sick leave and workman’s compensation have put a squeeze on the company’s bottom line. By integrating on-site wellness workshops and events, employee absenteeism declines, health-benefit costs are lowered and job satisfaction and retention rates increase.

Mommy Bytes lists the wellness program as one of the things she loves about her job: "There have been lots of seminars and I have learned about all sorts of things such as: chiropractic, hypnosis, sleeping, acupuncture and The Secret (another blog post on that for sure)."

Momcrats found that,

More than half (58 percent) of employers offering health benefits offer at least one of the following wellness programs: weight loss program, gym membership discounts or on-site exercise facilities, smoking cessation program, personal health coaching, classes in nutrition or healthy living, web-based resources for healthy living, or a wellness newsletter.

Does your employer offer a wellness program? What incentives/support would need to be in place in order to get you to participate?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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